The teen-movie genre returns with "Mean Girls," and it comes back with a vengeance. What could have been a tired and clichéd retread of "Heathers" is actually a clever and witty flick thanks to the talents of screenwriter Tina Fey. Fey, head writer for "Saturday Night Live" and co-anchor of their "Weekend Update," has an amazing flair for satire, and what better way to showcase it than with a analytical glimpse at the world of high school cliques? Lindsay Lohan is Cady, the previously home-schooled daughter of two zoologists, growing up in the African wilderness while Mom and Dad conduct their research. When the 'rents decide to settle down, Cady gets her first taste of public schooling, which is almost as wild as the jungles and safaris she's used to. Cady is introduced to the different factions that populate the cafeteriaincluding the nympho band geeks, the nerdy Asians, the cool Asians, the varsity jocks and of course, the Plastics, teen royalty led by the manipulative Regina George (Rachel McAdams).
Cady is encouraged to infiltrate the Plastics by her new friends Janice (Lizzy Caplan), a gothy and arty outcast who possesses a Janaene Garafalo-style wit, and the flamboyantly out-and-proud Damian (Daniel Franzese), who fears the Plastics but admires their fabulousness. Cady agrees to the sabotage scheme, but it's not long before she succumbs to the glamorous life of the Plastics and starts to engage in their underhanded activities, such as writing in their "Burn Book," in which nasty (and hilarious) things are jotted down about every girl in their high school.
It all might sound like the typical teen fare, but the result is nothing like that. The cast is surprisingly flawless, from Lohan (who brings a depth to her role that Hilary Duff could only ever dream of achieving) to the entire supporting cast, which is filled with current "SNL" members and alums. Fey herself shows up along with Tim Meadows as sardonic members of the high school faculty, while Ana Gasteyer and Amy Poehler portray parents who just don't understand. Poehler steals every scene she's in as Regina's "cool mom," desperately trying to fit in by doing things like offering minors alcohol at her home, because she'd rather have them drinking there than somewhere else.
The younger members of the cast don't let the veterans walk away with the whole show though. Caplan and Franzese own their roles, Franzese particularly when Damian displays his adulation for Christina Aguilera during a holiday talent show. The other members of the Plastics shine as well. Besides the deliciously vindictive McAdams as the Queen Bee, the crew includes former "Party of Five" actress Lacey Chabert as the gossipy Gretchen and Amanda Seyfried as the clueless Karen, who's not above making out with her first cousin (because "there's cousins, and then there's first cousins and second cousins
Fey, with the help of director Mark Waters ("Freaky Friday," "The House of Yes"), has infused the film with her trademark comedic brilliance. The jokes and gags come at a break-neck pace, but the punch lines aren't the only hilarious aspects. Little touches such as Gretchen's dad being the inventor of Toaster Strudels and Regina's MTV obsessed little sister are details that will inspire laughter long after the movie is over. Even the particulars about the background characters should provide endless chuckles (just try to think about Trang Pak, the girl in wheelchair and her little person-sidekick, and the Middle-Eastern, hip-hop-obsessed mathlete/"Bad-Ass MC" after the movie without smiling).
If there's anything to complain about in this film, it's the overt sexualization of teenage girls. Of course, the actresses are older than they play, with the exception of Lohan (who, at 17 years old, brings an R. Kelly-like meaning to "The Parent Trap"). Parents might see the Disney-friendly actress in the trailers and bring their young children, but this movie is not for those under high school age (girls are called "sluts" and "whores" throughout). However, that doesn't mean anyone who's older than the class of 2004 shouldn't check "Mean Girls" out. Fey, Waters, and the entire cast have made sure the experience will be enjoyable for everyone.
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